Sunday, November 21, 2010

Playing an ancient game with Haar'e

She walked away from the dark crowded room that was drowning in screams of game induced frenzy. Shivratri was days away and people of the house had already been playing the game for weeks now. In the room on the third floor, young boys were standing in the outer circle as the old men in center rolled shells and prayed for luck. The legend, the old man of the house, much to the amusement of the young and learning, was rolling a big hand of Cowries. It was a win all-lose all situation. The old man filled both his hands with Cowries, without giving the shells a shake, even though his big hand could still easy manage it, with an easy flick action he threw the shells down on the floor. As the shells rolled, tossed and turned on the smooth mud floor, old man bent his head down, he was  going to lose, his experience told him that much, rest what he did was all instinct, his eyes locked onto a shell, still rolling- but it was going to be a Slit, he needed a Mount for Quin, old man's will dropped down on the shell, sitting on his two feet like a giant bird, he put his mouth near the shell that had almost stopped in a Slit and screamed his lungs out. He screamed out the words, his war-cry: Cht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'da.
Like a miracle, the shell turned, one more time. A Mount. It was Quin complete. He won. Wild celebrations broke out. Cht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'daCht'ye Pat'e Tekri Astin'da. Most of the old onlookers had a look of astonishment, the old timers were still astonished by this trick. They would have wanted to discuss if it was fair play. But the young saw it as a fete, a miraculous win. They were screaming with joy.

The young bride walked away from the dark crowded room that was drowning in screams of this game induced frenzy. She heard the young singing a strange song. She had her own song to sing. And old song. She walked to the big window, took in the sight, it was still a new sight, this was going to be her new house and new family, the house was old, its mores still older. She looked down to the street, the sight of her on the window had already started a motion down on the street. Young kids of the neighborhood, poor old urchins, all Muslims were gathering. She smiled. She reached for the inside of the fancy little bag that she was carrying in her one hand. She took out Haar'e from the bag that she had brought with her from her father's house, a bagful of Haar'e just for this day. She filled her hand with Haar'e and started to throw them down on the street. They say in the old days these shells were the currency, the money. While she showered Haar'e down on the street and onto the lapping crowd of little boys, she sang:

Baz'e Chek'e Haar'e Ma'e
Yus Tul'e
Tsu'e Pa'helwaan


For the Eagles
I sprinkle these Cowries
The one who picks them
the one be a strong man

-0-

How to Play with Haar'e/ Haran Gindun



Objective: Take all the shells of your opponents.

Number of players: No limit.

Start: At the start all players contribute a fixed number of shells (usually four) each to form a pool of playable shells for the round. The unit that each player contributes is known as Tchakh. When the playable shells are finished each player again contributes his share of Tchakh till he or she can no longer offer any and hence is out of the game.

First turn: To decide who will throw first a special throw of shells is arranged. Each player contributes a special, uniquely identifiable shell, say a shell with a broken edge or a hole. This shell is known as Botul. To decide who will go first, players take turns to roll the collected Botuls. You win the right to go first if your Botul stands out. The entire game is about shells standing out. A stand out would typically mean that all the other shells are in Mount state and your shell is in Slit state or vice versa.

In the scenario presented in the above image we can say that the owner of the shell with the hole can go first. his Botul won. The next turn may be decided in the same way or you can choose to have turns clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Each Botul is returned to its respective owner. And the play begins.

Play: Each player takes turns to roll the shells.

There is no particular way to throw the shells, only rule is do not obviously turn the shell for your benefit.

The outcome of the each turn, whether you won or won nothing, is based how the shells turned, whether you turned a certain number of shells to Mount state or Slit state.


In the above scenario the player rolling the shells got one shell in Slit state and rest all in Mount State. This is the best possible scenario. It is known a Quin. The scenario in which one shell is in Mount State and all the rest are in Slit state is also a Quin. The player wins all the shells on the floor. In this case eight shells. Other players pool more shells based on the pre-decided quantity of Tchakh. The turn of the winner continues and the the game continues. If the player had turned one more shell to Slit, he could have only picked two shells.


In the above scenario the player threw a dud, all the shells are in Mount state. This is known a Tsooyt.


The above scenario is also a Tsooyt as all the shells turned Slit.


In case of Tsooyt the player does not get to pick up any shells from the floor and the turn passes onto the next player.



In the above scenario player got three eyes or To'l Tr'y - three slits. The player loses. If it had been four Slits, he could have picked four shells and the turn (Baaz in Kashmiri or Baazi in Hindustani ) would have shifted to the next player.


Another To'l Tr'y scenario. Three Mounts and rest are Slits. One more mount and he could have picked four shells. And so the game goes one until everyone else has lost all his shells and you are sitting on a huge pile of shells.

In this way, a good game of Haar'e is played and enjoyed.

Also, if one finds the rules too tough to follow, or if one is looking for some simple fun with Shells. One can also play with them like this:

Hit the Shell to claim it.
-0-

Vinayak Razdan is a Game Developer.

4 comments:

  1. A wonderful link (lots of more info. about the game) shared by Dalip Langoo at the Facebook page of this blog. Check this:
    Haaran Gindun: To play with Haars

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is a treat to see haar like this
    I have been missing this for about last 30 years. You made me too happy. i am grateful to u.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Juft Ki Taq.
    Another variant of the game involved a challenger asking the opponent to guess the number of Shells in his hand. He would ask, 'van taq chha kina Juft'. Juft being Even and Chakh being Odd. On wrong or right guess shells equally the number in hand were exchanged.

    ReplyDelete

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